I’ve been reviewing the court cases that define student media rights (Tinker, Hazelwood) and came across the following from the Center for Scholastic Journalism Blog: Federal appeals court rules middle school is not a public forum; more censorship ahead. Ouch. That plus a blurb an email from the Society of Professional Journalists about an attempt to define, and thus restrict, who are journalists and who may/may not be admitted to meetings as such.
To review. The first ruling refers to a situation where a middle school student brought some anti-abortion leaflets to school. The principal told the student he could not distribute them because he did not have prior approval. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that:
…a middle school was not a public forum and school officials could both require prior approval of student leaflets and prohibit their distribution in hallways.
The onus put on school officials is to require ALL material be submitted for prior approval AND either ban or approve ALL material.
At the same time, this is chilling…where Tinker stated that a student does not lose their First Amendment right when they cross over onto school property, this ruling seems in direct conflict.
The Oregon situation, as summarized on the SPJ email:
Is your media organization “institutionalized”? “Well-established”? Does it produce at least 25 percent news content? If you can’t answer “yes” to all three, you won’t be welcome to cover local government in Lake Oswego, Ore., if the local council adopts a policy that defines members of the news media. When an Oregon blogger demanded entry to cover an executive session, Lake Oswego council members challenged his claim that he is a journalist. The city devised the policy, not yet passed, that has generated heat from several media organizations who view it as arbitrary because it allows cities and counties to decide whom to admit and whom to exclude from meetings and executive sessions.
It seems almost as if journalists are involved in a war with public officials, who are hunkering down and drawing battle lines, both at the professional and pre-entry levels. There’s an old adage: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
If our prospective journalists face fire in order to even gain the rights needed to go through high school and then college and then enter the workforce, then we will have a cadre of journalists forged in fire, tough enough to protect not only their rights, but the rights of those too ignorant to realize what they are doing to our youngest citizens and themselves.